Roundup: Walgreens’ new chief legal officer; Digital Health Collaborative launched; fundings/M&A defrosting for b.well, R1 RCM, Abridge, Reveleer; Veradigm likely delists, buys ScienceIO–mystery? (updated)

Walgreens’ CEO Wentworth’s final add to Executive Committee named. Lanesha Minnix was announced on Monday as the company’s new global chief legal officer and EVP, effective 15 April. She comes from being general counsel and corporate secretary for Ecolab, a Fortune 500 water, hygiene and infection prevention company. As chief legal officer, she will oversee Walgreens’ global legal, compliance, corporate governance and corporate security functions. Ms. Minnix succeeds Danielle Gray, who left in January to “pursue an external opportunity” (Reuters). Yahoo Finance from PR Newswire

A new organization to ‘advance digital health adoption’ launched last week. The Digital Health Collaborative, a coalition of 14 healthcare and consumer organizations, is committed to “evidence-based, cost-effective, equitable digital health solutions.” Their initial activities are expected to include a national purchaser survey, grantmaking, and convenings. The DHC is supported by the Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI) and led by Caroline Pearson, also the Executive Director at the NYC-based Peterson Center on Healthcare.

The 14 organizations backing the DHC are: AARP, AHIP, Alliance for Connected Care, American Medical Association (AMA), American Telemedicine Association (ATA), Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA), HLTH Foundation, Innovation and Value Initiative (IVI), International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM), National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and

The DHC with support from PHTI has established a Research and Impact Fund for aligned research and programs. The first grant was provided to DiMe for its Integrated Evidence Plans for Digital Health Products. While a fine list, this Editor notes no payers or hospitals (end user groups) or cybersecurity organizations to advocate for digital health security. DHC release

Some funding and M&A action…zounds!

b.well Connected Health’s Series C clocks in at $40 million. Leavitt Equity Partners led the raise which tops up b.well’s funding to $98.8 million. Their last funding round was a $32 million Series B in July 2021 with HLM Venture Partners as the lead. b.well markets its FHIR-enabled Connected Health platform to unify healthcare data, solutions, and services for end users at payers, providers, and employers. Joining the board are three new members: Andrew Clark, Managing Partner at Leavitt Equity Partners, Ryan Howells, Principal at Leavitt Partners and Executive Director of the CARIN Alliance, as an independent director, and Hon Pak, MD, Head of Digital Health at Samsung. Samsung is a key partner of b.well. A key joint project involves giving Galaxy smartphone users control over their longitudinal health records, as well as proactive, personalized health insights via Samsung Health, with easy access to care from providers including Walgreens, Northwell Health, Lee Health, ThedaCare, and others. Is the lettered round an indicator of Better Times ahead? Release, FierceHealthcare

R1 RCM may go private via investor group. An investor group led by New Mountain Capital is offering to take the revenue cycle management (RCM) company private to buy up shares they do not already own at $13.75 per share. New Mountain holds 32.43% of shares and is working with an investment group that includes another major shareholder TCP-ASC (TowerBrook Capital Partners that has a 29.64% stake, plus Ascension Health Alliance–Ascension accounts for nearly half of R1’s income), putting them at over 62% if TowerBrook goes all in. Mr. Market has weighed in and says that the offer price is already obsolete. It  represented a tidy premium to Friday’s close at $11.10, but the current trading on Nasdaq is well above the bid at $14.45. Current shareholders such as Coliseum Capital Management LLC, one of the five largest shareholders, have already stated to the board that the company is undervalued at the offer price. R1 traded in the $18 as recently as last summer, but hit a headwind at end of year with the loss of customer Pediatrix on implementation issues. But based on their 2023 performance despite this, the other investors are making a good case. R1 RCM is the largest publicly traded RCM company for hospitals and healthcare systems. They closed 2023 profitably with net income of $3.3 million, flipping a $63 million 2022 loss, on a revenue increase of nearly 25% to $2.3 billion.  Reuters, Healthcare Dive

Abridge, a clinical documentation and ‘clinical conversation’ company, is enjoying a lush Series C of $150 million led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures leading five other investors. Abridge has a conversational AI technology using LLM and speech recognition to ease the burden of taking notes during the doctor’s appointment and states it is fluent in 14 languages across 55 medical specialties. Its last raise was a $30 million Series B just last October. A good reason why both is that it is fully integrated within Epic. According to HISTalk, Lightspeed advisor Paul Ricci is a former chairman and CEO of Nuance, one of Abridge’s biggest competitors, so one has to assume he knows what’s what inside this technology. Axios

Another NLP and AI powered healthcare data analytics company, Reveleer, is also topping its tanks with a $65 million raise. Hercules Capital led the venture round on a total funding of $208 million. Release

Veradigm nears a delisting on Nasdaq due to reporting–but plans acquisition of ScienceIO, in what has to be a first. The continuing delisting watch on Veradigm (the former Allscripts) is fading to black with the company anticipating its failure to file needed financial statements with Nasdaq. Its stock continues to decline (today at $7.32 as of noon ET).

Since March 2023, Veradigm has had trouble with required reports due to faulty financial software and has begged extension after extension. The required reports due by Tuesday 27 February are for 2023 quarterlies on form 10-Q and its annual 2022 report on form 10-K.

Veradigm is also facing a slew of shareholder lawsuits on the decline in its share price [TTA 3 Jan]. To counter this, Veradigm announced today (27 Feb) that the board of directors is adopting a limited duration stockholder rights plan that issues by means of a dividend one preferred share purchase right for each outstanding share of Company common stock to stockholders of record on the close of business on 8 March 2024. This becomes exercisable only if a person or group secures beneficial ownership of 10% or more of the outstanding shares in the next year. The rights plan is obviously designed to compensate shareholders in the event of a takeover not approved by the board (i.e. a hostile takeover) via accumulation of stock and make a sale to an unapproved buyer less attractive. Release, MarketWatch/WSJ

Apparently Veradigm is healthy and profitable, according to analysts reported in Healthcare Dive. The company estimated unaudited revenue between $608 million and $622 million for its fiscal year 2023. Net income from continuing operations is estimated between $49 million and $58 million, according to the filing. This, coupled with its business as a data company, further adds to the mystery around their reporting to Nasdaq.

Simultaneous to the delisting, Veradigm announced today that it is acquiring yet another company, ScienceIO, that is (surprise!) an AI company. Veradigm will leverage ScienceIQs proprietary large language models on Veradigm’s rich data set and more. Acquisition cost of $140 million in cash (subject to customary adjustments for cash, indebtedness, working capital and transaction expenses) has approximately $44 million deferred, substantially all of which is payable in installments on each of the first three anniversaries of the closing date. Release

This is not the first acquisition that Veradigm has made with the delisting hanging. In January, Veradigm announced the acquisition of Koha Health, which specializes in orthopedic/musculoskeletal (MSK) revenue cycle management (RCM).

Updated 28 Feb: Nasdaq is delisting Veradigm effective 29 February. It will continue to trade OTC under MDRX until whatever time they become compliant with their reports. Veradigm is not appealing at this time. Healthcare Innovation. Veradigm release

News and deals roundup: Owlet’s $1B SPAC, Carbon Health’s $350M Series D, Series Bs by Woebot Health and b.Well, digital health rakes in $15bn

Baby monitoring system Owlet closed its SPAC late last week with Sandbridge Acquisition Corporation. It is now trading on the NYSE (OWLT) for around $8 per share. With Sandbridge’s investment and the concurrent private placement (PIPE), Owlet now has $135 million and a valuation of over $1 billion, far exceeding the $325 million estimated [TTA 17 Feb]. Owlet started in 2013 with a ‘Smart Sock’ (right) at $299 using pulse oximetry to monitor baby heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep patterns with readouts via their app, but has expanded to include an Owlet Cam and a Dream Lab to encourage good baby sleep, which parents will be the first to appreciate. Mobihealthnews

Carbon Health, which is certainly an odd name for a primary care provider plus virtual health with a streamlined patient record/EMR system and makes insurers happy because they charge only Medicare rates, received a hefty $350 million Series D raise. Led by Blackstone Horizon Partners with Atreides, Homebrew, Hudson Bay Capital, Fifth Wall, Lux Capital, Silver Lake Waterman, and BlackRock participating, along with returning investors Dragoneer Investment Group and Brookfield Technology Partners along with a slew of private investors, it follows on last November’s Series C of $100 million for a total raise since 2016 of $522 million. Valuation is what used to be an eye-blinking $3.3 billion. Carbon’s locations are a bit strange–concentrated in California and SF area with outposts, many of which are limited service or ‘pop-ups’, in Florida, Arizona, Kansas, and NYC. Unlike the recently covered One Medical, it does not require any kind of annual concierge fee. The model is an interesting one in positing high service and low cost. The founders are also staking out becoming the largest US primary care provider, which Village Medical or UnitedHealth Group would not be delighted about. One wonders if all this staking out will work, or is to attract payer investment when the VCs decide to exit. FierceHealthcare, Mobihealthnews (referring to them as multimodal, which sounds like ocean/rail transport or articulated lorries), Forbes

Also in the Mobihealthnews article: a Series B $90 million raise by Woebot Health, developer of a mental health chatbot (ok, relational agent), and the $32 million Series B raise of b.well Connected Health, a patient-facing health management platform that will get a big boost from interoperability around patient records required under the Cures Act. Woebot’s twee infographic about their therapeutic bond study in the JMIR is woeful, though, as large parts are unreadable.

No surprise that digital health funding hit a $15 billion high in the first half of 2021, up 138%, driven in large part by telehealth investment. This is based on a report from Mercom Capital Group. FierceHealthcare

Deal and news roundup: Therapy Brands’ big KKR investment, AppliedVR’s non-painful $29M Series A; Akili tests cognitive-boosting games; Firefly Health lights up $40M; Mastercard-b.well partner, two big IPOs filed, more

Behavioral health stays on the bubble. Therapy Brands, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company with a suite of mental and behavioral health practice tools for providers, announced (7 April) that major investment firm KKR will take a majority interest in the company. Existing investor PSG will participate. Exiting are current investors Lightyear Capital LLC, Oak HC/FT, and Greater Sum Ventures. Neither expected closing nor financial terms were disclosed. Previous investment was private equity and is not available (Crunchbase).

Therapy, founded in 2013, has a suite of practice management, telehealth, and data collection tools encompassing practice management; software tools for substance, psychotherapy, and rehab treatment; two HIPAA-compliant telehealth/e-prescription platforms; billing; and staff performance evaluation. It’s remained under the radar yet boasts leadership from Greenway Health–their CEO, Kimberly O’Loughlin–Community Brands, Advance Publications, ADP, and Henry Schein. 

Virtual reality and its effects on the brain are growing warm as an approach to pain management. LA-based AppliedVR announced a $29 million Series A with F-Prime Capital, JAZZ Venture Partners, Sway Ventures, GSR Ventures, Magnetic Ventures, and Cedars-Sinai. Their EaseVRx was the first VR-based prescription therapeutic to receive FDA Breakthrough Device Designation late last year to care for treatment-resistant fibromyalgia and lower back pain. VR is used to modulate the brain’s perception of pain through cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and biofeedback, reducing it in intensity and emotional effect. Total funding is $35 million since 2016. While still in clinical trials for other types of pain management (recent release), EaseVRx is being used by 200 provider groups and 60,000 patients. This Editor noted their inclusion in a Louisville Thrive Center showcase back in 2017 when Care Innovations was there; they are still listed under Social Engagement. Release. FierceHealthcare includes AppliedVR with a roundup of March deals.

Related in brain management is therapy for a long-term effect of COVID-19 infection recovery–cognitive impairment. An emerging long-term effect of COVID-19 illness in some individuals has been ‘brain fog’. Akili Interactive of Boston is collaborating with Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to evaluate their video game-based digital therapeutic AKL-T01 as a treatment for patients with cognitive dysfunction following COVID-19. Their EndeavorRX has also been used with therapy for children with ADHD and includes a behavior tracking app. Release

Boston-based startup Firefly Health scored a luminescent Series B of $40 million. Their current platform provides integrated in-person and virtual primary health along with specialist referrals and behavioral support in what they term a ‘digital Kaiser’. The raise will be used to launch a targeted health plan offering. Firefly already works with Aetna, Anthem, Tufts Health Plan, and UnitedHealthcare, among others, but at this time is pretty much limited to Massachusetts and does not accept Medicare nor Medicaid. Jonathan Bush, former CEO of athenahealth, joined back in 2019 as executive chairman a year after his departure. FierceHealthcare

And in other news…

Two IPO filings plus a SPAC:

  • Privia Health, a national physician platform furnishing management services to providers such as group formation (ACOs) and technologies for coordination and value-based patient care, announced their S-1 with the SEC. No share offering information was disclosed. Lead managers are Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, so it will be sizeable.
  • Agilon Health, another management services company organizing community physicians for Medicare Advantage in their ‘Total Care Model’ value-based care for 65+, announced their S-1 for 46.6 million shares priced between $20 to $23 per share. At the low price, this would be a raise of $932 million. JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and BofA Securities are leads. Hat tip on both to HISTalk Morning Headlines.
  • Better Therapeutics, a digital therapeutics/cognitive health platform addressing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, will be merging with a SPAC, Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp. II, closing by late summer for listing on NASDAQ. Projected: $113 million of cash proceeds, including a fully committed $50 million PIPE and up to $57.5 million of cash held in the Mountain Crest II trust account assuming no redemptions, for a valuation of about $187 million. Release, Mobihealthnews

Mastercard and b.well Connected Health, a consumer health management platform via employers, health systems, and health plans, are launching a patient identity verification tool for mobile phones. FierceHealthcare

And a health tech entrepreneur turns towards the payer side, for now. Karl Hess joins Texas Health Aetna, a joint venture between Arlington-based Texas Health Resources and Aetna, as interim CEO. Mr. Hess is better known to health techies on LinkedIn as principal of OnDigitalHealth Consulting, Kalico Partners in population health management, Welltok, and Collain Healthcare. Becker’s Payer Issues

News roundup: Kompaï debuts, Aging Tech 2020 study, Project Nightingale may sing to the Senate, Amwell, b.well, Lyft’s SDOH, more on telehealth for COVID-19

Believe it or not, there IS news beyond a virus!

France’s Kompaï assistance robot is finally for sale to health organizations, primarily nursing homes and hospitals. Its objective, according to its announcement release, is to help health professionals in repetitive daily tasks, and to help patients. It’s interesting that the discussion of appearance was to achieve a ‘slightly humanoid’ look, but not too human. The development process took over 10 years. (Here at TTA, Steve’s first ‘in person’ with the developers was in May 2011!) Kompaï usage mentioned is in mobility assistance and facility ‘tours’ and public guidance. Here’s Kompai in action on what looks like a tour. Press release (French/English)

Not much on robotics here. Laurie Orlov has issued her 2020 Market Overview Technology for Aging Market Overview on her Aging and Health Technology Watch, and everyone in the industry should download. Key points:

  • In 2020, aging technologies finally nudged into the mainstream
  • The older adult tech market has been recognized as an opportunity by such companies as Best Buy, Samsung, and Amazon. Medicare Advantage payers now cover some tech.
  • Advances plus smart marketing in hearing tech–one of the top needs in even younger demographics–is disrupting a formerly staid (and expensive)
  • The White House report “Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population” [TTA 7 March] first was an acknowledgment of its importance and two, would also serve as a great source document for entrepreneurs and developers.

The study covers the demographics of the older adult market, where they are living, caregiving, the effect of data breaches, optimizing design for this market, the impacts of voice-driven assistants, wearables, and hearables.

Project Nightingale may be singing to some US Senators. The 10 million Ascension Health identified patient records that were transferred in a BAA deal to Google [TTA 14 Nov 19], intended to build a search engine for Ascension’s EHR, continue to be looked into. They went to Google without patient or physician consent or knowledge, with major questions around its security and who had access to the data. A bipartisan group of senators is (finally) looking at this ‘maybe breach’, according to Becker’s. (Also WSJ, paywalled)

Short takes:  b.well scored a $16 million Series A for its software that integrates digital health applications for payers, providers, and employers. The round was led by UnityPoint Health Ventures….Lyft is partnering with Unite Us to provide non-emergency patient transportation to referred health appointments. Unite Us is a social determinants of health (SDOH) company which connects health and community-based social care providers….What happens if you’re a quarantined physician due to exposure to the COVID-19 virus? Use telehealth to connect to patients in EDs or in direct clinic or practice care, freeing up other doctors for hands-on care. 11 March New England Journal of Medicine….American Well is finally no more, long live Amwell. Complete with a little heart-check logo, American Well completed its long journey to a new name, to absolutely no one’s surprise. It was set to be a big reveal at HIMSS, but we know what happened there. Amwell blog, accompanied with the usual long-winded ‘marketing’ rationale They are also reporting a 10 to 20 percent increase in telehealth consults by patients (Becker’s)….Hospitals and health systems such as Spectrum Health (MI), Indiana University Health, Mount Sinai NY, St. Lukes in Bethlehem PA, and MUSC Health, are experimenting with COVID-19 virtual screenings and developing COVID-19 databases in their EHRs. The oddest: Hartford (CT) Healthcare’s drive-through screening center and virtual visit program. Is there an opportunity to cross-market with Wendy’s or Mickey D’s? After all, a burger and fries would be nice for a hungry, maybe sick, patient before they self-quarantine.